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Life on the frontline of nursing – pioneer student discusses her journey with the OU

Pioneer student, Jacky looks back at her life and study with The Open University, spanning over 40 years. She succeeded in becoming the only registered nurse at her hospital to have a degree and after completing further study with the OU, she launched a new career as a Nursing Tutor.

“I was born and raised in Liverpool during the post-war baby boom – only the top 25% of students were selected to go to grammar school, with fewer places for girls than boys. Even if you were smart enough to flourish at a grammar, if you weren’t within that select group your chance was taken away. Consequently, following my junior school education, I went on to a Secondary Modern School.”

Breaking the spiral

“I was in the top set at school, so was able to stay on until I was 16 (rather than the standard 15) doing a commercial course and earning secretarial qualifications – university wasn’t an option if you were at a Secondary Modern. I went onto work in a bank and then a barrister’s office, before starting my career as a nurse at the age of 18.

“School leavers were very much pigeon-holed into professions, and I was eager to break this spiral. I worked hard in my nurse training to succeed and became a midwifery sister at 23, which was seen as young for such a senior position.

“I obtained seven GCEs at evening classes, then went on to study for a Diploma in Nursing and an Occupational Health qualification from the Royal College of Nursing; all whilst working full-time and helping to care for my terminally ill father.

“Whilst working as an Intensive Care Sister, I started my degree with The Open University. I had originally wanted to go to a conventional university, but struggled to get the funding that was needed.

“Being able to work at the same time as study meant that I could support myself through my course, as well as cope with the other demands on my personal life, including looking after my two small children.”

Long roads lead to great things

“It was a long road to achieving my BA, but it led to great things – shortly after completing my OU degree, I went to Chichester to work as a Senior Nurse. During my time there I was approached by their School of Nursing to support with teaching, as I was the only registered nurse with a degree at the hospital.

“I was seconded onto their staff and sponsored to do my teaching training in Portsmouth so that I could become a fully qualified teacher. After I gained my Cert Ed, the School of Nursing in Portsmouth offered me a job share which meant that I was finally able to finish my Honours.

“Professor Jean Hooper, who was Head of The School of Nursing in Portsmouth, was also an OU graduate. When it was time for me to attend my ceremony, she allowed me to wear her robes, which was a great personal honour.”

“Studying was tough at times – I remember staying up into the early hours to finish assignments, and travelling in the dead of night to post the final piece through my tutors door at 4am. When my children were babies, the OU provided at home invigilators for my friend and I, so that we could be there for our children whilst still completing our all-important exams.

“When the School of Nursing eventually closed, I continued to support enrolled nurses who were studying via distance learning courses to become registered nurses. My advice back then still stands today to those who are considering studying with the OU:

“If you believe in yourself, you can achieve – however high that mountain is, trust in yourself that you can climb it. Don’t give up no matter how long it takes and fulfil your dreams.”

Find out more

About studying Nursing and Healthcare Practice at The Open University.

About Author

Hannah is part of the Media Relations Team at The Open University, working with the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. With experience both agency and in-house, Hannah has worked on campaigns for a number of large corporate companies and brands, including RBS, NatWest, Travelodge, Audible, AA and the Royal Academy of Dance. She has completed a Masters in Publishing Studies from Oxford Brookes and is currently studying towards a DipHE in Computer, IT and Design. In her free time she enjoys photography, reading and going to the theatre.

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